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How to improve “See one, do one, teach one” with VR

Expert insights
min read

The old adage, "see one, do one, teach one" has long been the paragon of learning in medicine. Consider the surgical resident: they first observe surgery, then perform it on their own, and finally, teach someone else to do it. That last step is critical because it demonstrates mastery of the technique.

This methodology of teaching medical professionals has been in place for a long time, and has served healthcare well. But as simple as it sounds, the “see one, do one, teach one” pedagogy is actually more complicated. It should really be ”See many, learn from the outcome; do many with supervision, learn from the outcome; then teach many with supervision, learn from the outcome; and repeat the cycle.” That phrasing doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but it’s more accurate.

Medical residents don’t watch a single surgery, master the technique in one try, and instantly start teaching others. They learn with repetitive practice over many sessions. This, of course, is important, because you can’t set a medical resident loose on a surgical patient until they’re quite competent. In a situation where a single mistake can be catastrophic, even deadly, professionals in training have to be really confident about what they’re doing the very first time they conduct a live procedure.

This is true not just for surgical residents and those in healthcare but for all kinds of jobs. The shift worker in a warehouse has to be competent at spotting hazards, or they risk injury. The retail worker in an electronics store won’t gain experience in dealing with armed robbery on the job, but if it ever happens, they have to know exactly what to do to keep themselves and their customers safe — the first time. Not to mention the low-level risk companies take when they put under-trained frontline workers in front of customers.

The ideal training scenario for all of these kinds of professional environments and more? Hands-on, in-body experience before the worker ever touches a real piece of equipment or stands in front of a customer. That way is virtual reality (VR).

What does “see one, do one, teach one” mean?

“See one, do one, teach one” is a pedagogy popularized in medical training where the learner first observes a procedure, then performs the procedure, and finally, demonstrates mastery by teaching the procedure.

While this teaching style came from the world of surgical residence, it’s long had wide applications across all myriad roles and industries. As they’re being onboarded or reskilled, employees delve into learning in an intellectual way. They might also shadow another employee or receive mentorship from someone more experienced before attempting the role on their own. Once established in a role, people from frontline workers to back-office managers are then better equipped to teach others.

But while “see one, do one, teach one” has long been a standard in many lines of work, it’s not the gold standard. Not by a long shot.

How VR replaces “see one, do one, teach one”

VR, particularly in the form of Immersive Learning, is a better way to train all kinds of workers. It starts with the premise that “learning by doing” has huge benefits, and wraps all of the principles of “see one, do one, teach one” into a singular, scalable experience.

Let’s break it down:

See one

Watching a demonstration or procedure gives the learner a certain amount of information, but most people are not merely visual learners. In fact, a lot of people don’t absorb information well by passively watching a demonstration or video.

The immersive experience enables people to learn in ways visual, auditory, language-based, and kinesthetic. Inside a VR headset, learners experience the phenomenon of multimodal learning. Instead of merely seeing a demonstration, they’re immersed in a highly realistic situation, which involves not just sights but sounds and the ability to interact. Often, text overlaying the experience adds context and additional information.

Do one

Learning by doing is objectively the most effective way to gain a skill and commit it to memory. VR is superior in this regard because learners get hands-on, embodied practice that can be repeated over and over at scale, safely.

Getting back to the surgical example, the medical student in the operating theater is under tremendous pressure not to make a mistake. But in a VR headset, mistakes aren’t tragic. Learners get instant feedback and a chance to go through the exercise again. The repetitive, on-demand aspect of Immersive Learning is one of the reasons it’s so powerful.

Teach one

Here’s where Immersive Learning departs from “See one, do one, teach one.” Rather than the opportunity to demonstrate skill by teaching process or procedure, within Immersive Learning, there are specific metrics that prove the learner’s competency and skill level.

With Strivr’s Immersive Learning platform, for instance, there are several types of data learning organizations can glean. One of them is performance data, which demonstrates how good the learner is at a specific skill once they’ve finished a module. VR performance data is richer than the feedback you get from traditional types of training, particularly because it can be partnered with attention and engagement data, which is a highly accurate predictor of future on-the-job performance.

Learn how AdventHealth is improving patient care with VR training.

Organizations using immersive learning for patient safety & more


AdventHealth is just one healthcare organization using VR to scale the highest quality of training across its surgical units. The Florida-based nonprofit healthcare system partnered with Strivr to create an Immersive Learning pilot for the purpose of reproducing and scaling its most effective training across its dispersed hospital system in multiple states.

The immersive training AdventHealth instituted was for the particular use case of procedural sedation, which has a national standard of practice but, until now, lacked a consistent training methodology.

After going through the Immersive Learning module, 84% of the RNs at AdventHealth felt more prepared, 88% felt more confident about assessing patient condition, and 87% more confident about administering medication.

Stanford Children's Hospital

Stanford Children’s Hospital brought in Immersive Learning to teach a very different type of skill to its medical professionals. Within a headset, pediatric oncologists were able to practice an unfortunately common and extremely specific soft skill: empathy during difficult conversations with family members about terminally sick children. Immersive Learning was effective in this application because it allowed doctors to practice conversations in a safe virtual environment and experience the reactions of realistic avatars during the conversations. By replaying the training, doctors could assess their own behavior as well, making changes in subsequent test runs of the conversations.

These are just two examples of Strivr customers in the healthcare field leaning into Immersive Learning to improve their employee training, but there are many other types of companies in diverse industries taking advantage of, and even pioneering, new applications of Immersive Learning.

Immersive Learning takes things a step further

“See one, do one, teach one” has had its day. Now, with Immersive Learning, we have “Do as many as it takes to get really good at it — without compromising on safety or efficiency” — a pedagogy with far-reaching implications in the world of work. Want to find out how your organization can supplement or even replace “see one, do one, teach one” with Immersive Learning?

Learn more about the Strivr platform.

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